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Before court​

The thought of going to court and giving evidence in court can make people feel nervous and anxious.

It is recommended you speak with someone to get support and information about the court process. There are a number of services and procedures that can assist. There is also a diagram, or flowchart, which shows the general stages of the process.

The court is a formal environment. If you are unsure how to behave or what to wear you should talk to your counsellor, your Witness Assistance Officer , your lawyer or a police officer.

    Witness assistance and other services

    NSW Health Sexual Assault Services and CASAC Inc. provide services for people who have experienced sexual assault and their families/significant others. These services also assist clients with court preparation and support.

    The Witness Assistance Service provides a range of services to meet the needs of victims of crime and victims appearing in court matters prosecuted by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). The service aims to reduce the trauma to crime victims by providing support and information about court. It is a part of the ODPP and is staffed by professionally qualified workers.

    There are a number of other support services available to help you and other people affected by crime to prepare for court. Know more about getting ready for court.

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    Talking with a lawyer from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

    You are likely to meet with a lawyer from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) who is preparing your case for the hearing. The prosecutor will probably want to talk to you about your statement beforehand. If you don't have a copy of your statement ask the police or the lawyer from the ODPP to give you a copy well before you go to court. You are not allowed to see statements made by other witnesses or to enter court while their evidence is being given until after you have given your evidence.

    If you know other witnesses in the case it is important you do not discuss your evidence with them.

    Keep in touch with the police or the lawyer from the ODPP to discuss any concerns you have about the case. You have the right to be kept informed about the progress of your matter, so make arrangements with the police officer or the ODPP lawyer responsible for your case about how often you should contact them.

    Let people know If you change your address or telephone number or if you are going away for more than a few days.

    Don't forget to tell the police officer in-charge, the ODPP's lawyer or Witness Assistance Officer if you change your address or telephone number or if you are going away for more than a few days.

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    Support person

    You are allowed to have someone to support you while you are at court, to give emotional support, reassure you and explain what is happening. The support person cannot give evidence. You can choose who you would like your support person to be. It could be a friend, family member, professional counsellor or someone from a witness support group. It's important to discuss who is going to be your support person with the Witness Assistance Officer, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions lawyer or the police officer. Your support person cannot be a witness in the case.

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    Costs    

    Expenses are paid to witnesses to attend court to give evidence. This can help with travel costs, loss of earnings, child care and meals/snacks while you are in court. Speak to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions about how to claim for these allowances.

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    Safety

    If you are scared or being intimidated by anyone involved in the investigation or court case, notify the police, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions immediately. Arrangements can be made to protect you.

    You can ask that your address not be given in open court. If you have concerns, tell the prosecutor before the case begins.

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    Your evidence  

    Before you go to court, it is helpful to read your statement again and be familiar with it. Think about the events and try to remember details such as dates, times, descriptions, actions and exact words used. Do not discuss your evidence with anyone else.

    Be prepared to speak loudly and clearly. The microphone on the witness box does not always amplify; sometimes it is only used to record proceedings.

    You cannot be advised to what to say at court. Your role is to tell the truth as best as you can.

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    Special assistance with communicating

    If you find understanding or speaking English difficult, or if you need some special aids or assistance because you have a disability, speak to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions lawyer or police officers, Witness Assistance Service or Sexual Assault Services as soon as possible. Special arrangements will then be made for you in preparation for giving evidence.

    Professional interpreters are bound by rules not to tell other people about the case unless the court requires it. They are also required to take an oath where they promise to properly interpret what is said. If you believe the interpreter is not interpreting your evidence accurately you should complain to the prosecutor or tell the magistrate or judge. Witnesses do not have to pay for interpreters.

    People with hearing or speech impairment or other disability that may make it difficult to communicate can also use interpreters.

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